A woman whose thighs and genitals were scalded when coffee was spilled in her lap at a McDonald's drive-through in Clondalkin, Co Dublin, has been awarded €30,000 damages in the Circuit Civil Court.
Ciara Corboy (29) told Judge Francis Comerford that while being handed an Americano at the takeaway at the Mill Shopping Centre, a lid that had not been properly secured came off, causing her to be scalded in her thighs and groin.
Barrister Noel Cosgrove, for Ms Corboy, said she suffered extensive burns and had to attend St James's Hospital six times to have her wounds treated.
The hospital had provided her with a nappy-type dressing.
Mr Cosgrove said the defendant, Gerla Restaurants Ltd, of Lucan, Co Dublin, had denied negligence in a full defence and had pleaded contributory negligence on Ms Corboy's part over the incident in November 2017.
Ms Corboy, of Oatfield Avenue, Clondalkin, said she had been in her car with her then partner, Amanda Garvey, who had applied first aid gel to her wounds while she was being treated in the restaurant office.
She said she experienced excruciating pain at the time and had suffered ongoing pain for at least six weeks afterwards.
She and her partner had been unable to have any intimate relations for almost eight months.
Ms Corboy denied in cross-examination by Moira Flahive, counsel for Gerla Restaurants, that she had put the coffee cup between her legs, which had caused the lid to pop off.
She also denied the spillage had been caused by her car jolting forward.
Judge Comerford said he accepted that McDonald's training policy of providing a cup carrier with every hot drink handed out had been breached, which tipped the decision in Ms Corboy's favour. The judge said her injuries had not fully resolved for up to eight months and photographs of her wounds were indicative of a stressful and painful injury.
"They were bad burns in an extremely sensitive area and I accept there would have been some impact on sexual activity for five months or so after the incident," he said.
"There was also a high degree of indignity involved in the way things occurred."
The judge said that, despite the effects of the injuries not having lasted for a long period, the court was of the view that Ms Corboy should be awarded €30,000 damages together with her legal costs.
One of the most famous coffee scalding cases in legal history involved McDonald's and a 79-year-old Albuquerque woman who scalded herself while sitting in her grandson's car in 1992.
Stella Liebeck, who acknowledged that the spill had been her fault, having placed the coffee cup between her legs, suffered third-degree burns on her legs and genitals.
She asked McDonald's to pay her medical expenses of $20,000 (€18,000) but the company offered her only $800 (€720), leading to her filing a lawsuit in 1994.
A jury suggested she be awarded $3m (€2.7m) but Ms Liebeck eventually settled for less than $600,000 (€540,000).